By Matt Sewell, NAU Media Relations
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - On a sunny, fall afternoon in Flagstaff, the NAU Marching Band practiced its Homecoming routine, diligently preparing for what could be its biggest crowd to date in the 2012 football season.
For six hours a week, the group of nearly 100 students gets together to share their mutual love of music, something that's been fostered at NAU for many years through not just the band, but also the university's prominent music education department.
For Elliott Tackitt, the band's director, his time spent with the band represents a longstanding love of music in his own life, dating back to his high school days as a trombone player in the Plymouth Canton Marching Band, one of the most renowned groups of its kind in the state of Michigan.
"I've always loved not only the musical aspects [of marching band], but the leadership and familial aspects as well," Tackitt said when speaking about his path to his current position.
"Working with students is my favorite part of this job. Just getting to watch them be a part of something that's bigger than any one of them, that being a part of an ensemble, and getting to a point to where we're achieving something, it's great to see their faces light up at the end."
Tackitt received an undergraduate degree in music performance and a certificate in music education from the University of Michigan in 2006 before moving on to the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) to earn a Master of Music degree in 2008. He was hired as the NAU Associate Director of Bands in January 2009.
What's special about the band itself is that with even casual observation at any given band practice, one can tell that the passion for music is hardly limited to Tackitt himself, or even just music education majors.
Touted as Arizona's "only retro-rock college marching band" according to its website, Tackitt says that barely half of the entire band are actually music majors. And out of those that are, many continue to participate long after the music department's two-semester marching band requirement has passed.
"These are students who are at NAU very often to pursue a different degree than music, but all of them were involved in music in high school and continue to be able to practice their love of music in an entertaining, non-competitive environment," Tackitt said.
For many band members, their favorite part of the process is, unsurprisingly, the final product: performing in front of thousands of fans at NAU football games.
"The growth we see from the first day of band camp to the end of the season where we're playing for thousands of people in the stand is a really exciting process," said Annika Natseway, a senior drum major and Flagstaff native. "At the games you can see the energy and how the band makes an impact on how the games go a lot of times."
That final product will be on display Saturday, showcasing weeks of preparation and practice and putting out a dynamic sound from both the field and the stands that is unrivaled in northern Arizona, so come out to the Skydome, cheer on your Lumberjack football team, and see what the NAU Marching Band is all about.